The World Is Not Enough: Bond action at its best
James R | On 25, Sep 2021
Director: Michael Apted
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Judi Dench
If Tomorrow Never Dies saw modern 007 occasionally dip into the Roger Moore hamper of vintage cheese, The World Is Not Enough saw Pierce Brosnan nibbling on stilton every few minutes – in between shooting people in cold blood. From its very first conversation, mostly designed for Bond to whip out his banking puns, to the underwater finale (any Bond movie that ends with a submarine should be treated with caution), Michael Apted’s actioner appears all too happy to hark back to Bond’s cheerful days of the 1970s.
But despite the film’s yellowy surface and occasionally pungent whiff – hello to Denise Richards as “Christmas Jones” a two-dimensional scientist who only exists to allow for one giant Christmas-themed innuendo at the end – The World Is Not Enough is a stonkingly good ride. Why? Robert Carlyle is low-key enough the villain, Renard, to stop his I-feel-no-pain-until-I-die motif feeling too ridiculous; Judi Dench milks the chance to give M some backstory (a Spooks-style tactic that paved the way for a similar angle in Skyfall); and the plot follows Tomorrow Never Die’s topical approach by tapping into a tale of oil pipelines and commerce.
At its centre is Elektra King, played by Sophie Marceau with an intriguing slink between femme fatale and furious survivor seeking vengeance. Either way, she sells the passion of her conviction – just enough to cover up some dated prosthetics involving an earring – and develops a convincing rapport with Brosnan’s Bond, who continues to ping back and forth between intimacy and cold-blooded killing with confidence.
The real star of the show, though, is Michael Apted. The late Rome and Enigma helmer busts blocks with aplomb, blowing up cars, snowmobiles, helicopters and – yes – submarines as he goes. The resulting set pieces are some of the best of modern Bond, whether it’s building on Tomorrow Never Dies’ remote-controlled car or borrowing from Roger Moore’s skiing playbook.
The confident action choreography sets the bar high from the off, with a barnstorming opening sequence that sees Bond end up on an explosive boat ride down the Thames, right up to the Millennium Dome. Vic Armstrong’s stellar second unit helps put together a pursuit that’s as spectacular as it is witty – something that can’t always be said of the script. If John Cleese’s introduction as the successor to Q isn’t exactly subtle (Desmond Llewelyn’s send-off is much more effective), at least the Q branch are responsible for enabling such an impressive opener – it’s one of the longest pre-title sequences in 007 history, and with good reason, and only improves in hindsight when compared to Brosnan’s final outing that would follow.